Jurors determining the fate of Dennis Tetso have heard the murder case repeatedly described as a puzzle over seven days of testimony and arguments.
Now they must decide if the pieces fit together.
The seven women and five men on the jury began deliberations Tuesday afternoon in Baltimore County Circuit Court after hearing closing arguments from both sides. The jury will weigh charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter brought against Tetso in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Tracey Gardner-Tetso, who has not been seen or heard from since March 6, 2005.
David B. Irwin, Tetso’s lawyer, accused prosecutors of “railroading” his client and zeroing in on him despite no forensic, DNA or fingerprint evidence connecting Tetso to a crime.
“There’s no evidence of first-degree murder or second-degree murder. There’s no evidence a crime took place,” Irwin said during his nearly 90-minute remarks. “There’s evidence she’s gone.”
Irwin, of Irwin, Green & Dexter LLP in Towson, also renewed his attack on Detective Philip G. Marll, the lead investigator in the case, whom Irwin called a “professional witness.” Irwin previously alleged Marll gave perjured testimony related to the search of Gardner-Tetso’s car on March 17, 2005, when it was recovered in a Glen Burnie parking lot.
Marll testified under direct examination that he inspected the car’s interior that afternoon at police headquarters after receiving keys from Tetso. But Irwin, during cross-examination, produced a police report showing that officers used a wire hanger to open the car in the parking lot that morning. Marll said that might have happened but he did not see it, a statement Irwin cast doubt on because of Marll’s role as lead investigator.
Irwin contrasted Marll’s testimony to Tetso’s, which the lawyer said was truthful. Tetso denied ever physically harming his wife and has steadfastly maintained his innocence since Gardner-Tetso disappeared.
“Tetso wasn’t smooth like Detective Marll. He was more like Forrest Gump,” Irwin said — a reference he made several times. “…[Tetso] is not a criminal mastermind. He’s a nice guy, but he can be dumb.”
Irwin reminded jurors they had to find Tetso guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“If the circumstantial case shows he might be guilty, could be guilty, probably is guilty, you must acquit,” he said.
Prosecutor Garret Glennon countered the circumstantial evidence was more than just audio recordings and cell phone records.
“When someone goes missing for five years, that is evidence,” he said. “When someone abandons her dogs and her cars, that is evidence. When you lie to police about what you did that day, that is evidence.”
Glennon concluded his rebuttal with a PowerPoint presentation that listed all the circumstantial evidence in the case. All but two phrases on the list morphed into puzzle pieces, supporting co-counsel Michelle Samoryk’s opening statement that jurors would have 98 out of 100 puzzle pieces in the case. The PowerPoint puzzle was a photo of Tetso; the words remaining on the screen were “location of body” and “mechanism of death.”
“Does anybody not know what this is a picture of?” Glennon asked. “Don’t reward [Tetso] for successfully disposing of the body.”
Jurors are scheduled to resume deliberations Wednesday morning.